$2.7 million STEM lab in the works for Stratford Middle School
Carol Stream Elementary District 93 educators aren't just relying on architects to design a new learning space at Stratford Middle School.
They've sought input from Adler Planetarium, suburban business owners, parents and students to try to rethink traditional science classrooms. That means the walls, lighting and even the flooring are no afterthought as they create the first STEM lab in the district.
"We want to generate a great deal of excitement for learning," Superintendent Bill Shields said.
The district plans to spend up to $2.7 million on a project to transform existing classrooms into a STEM lab that will occupy its own wing on the second floor of the Bloomingdale school.
The goal is to design a colorful and interactive space that piques interest in careers in science, technology, engineering and math. It also will be a place where students will develop critical thinking and problem-solving skills, Shields said.
He envisions the lab hosting hands-on experiences for kids and visits from scientists, environmentalists and entrepreneurs. Movable furniture and walls will encourage students to work in groups and lead their own presentations.
"They will take the responsibility for their learning," Shields said. "And they'll have different choices and a lot more voice."
ARCON Associates Inc., a district-hired firm based in Lombard, is developing renderings for the lab based on feedback from parents of kids in preschool through eighth grade and a committee of teachers, administrators and a few school board members.
The lab is expected to open in fall 2017 after a summerlong project. The district's long-term plan calls for bringing a STEM lab to Jay Stream Middle School amid "dramatic" changes in science curriculum in recent years, Shields said.
The lab at Stratford will have natural lighting -- not harsh fluorescent -- so students feel comfortable and engaged, said Shields, citing educational psychology research.
The district has used those concepts to renovate school libraries into "Innovation Centers" at Elsie C. Johnson Roy DeShane and Carol Stream elementary schools, where students now have access to touch screen whiteboards in rooms.
Stratford students also will use technology in a STEM lab that could be outfitted with a telescope, GoPro cameras and robotics programs.
"We just want to make sure we're providing those opportunities for kids to explore," Shields said.